Mini Thoughts on Recent Reads #4

I’ve been reading so much lately that I have a small backlog of books to tell you about so I am going to break them up into several Mini Thoughts for the next few posts until I am caught up. Here are the first two titles:

songs willow

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford – I really enjoyed Ford’s first book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, so this book was a natural choice for me to read. It takes place in 1930’s Seattle and tells the story of William, a little boy in an orphanage, and his discovery that the mother who abandoned him is now a budding movie star, Willow Frost. The majority of the novel takes us back to Willow’s teen years as a singer and abused daughter as we learn why she gave William up to the orphanage. I find Ford to be a compelling writer who tells a very swiftly moving story. This time I was half-way into the novel before I realized that I wasn’t liking it much. The plot was a bit generic and bland – I’m afraid to say almost like a Hallmark channel movie. It contained all the elements of a good historical novel, but it lacked that certain something that would make it memorable.

Moonstone
I apologize for this cruddy photo.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins – According to Goodreads I started reading The Moonstone on November 12, 2012. I read about half of it right away and then put it aside for some unknown reason. I didn’t pick it back up again until July 2013. Do you ever do this? I can’t believe I didn’t finish it at the time. Anyway, I really liked it and found it to be a fantastic investigation into who swiped the famous moonstone diamond from Rachel Verinder. Collins uses four narrators to uncover the mystery that I wasn’t able to figure out until almost the end. Gabriel Betteridge, the caretaker of Rachel’s family home, is the best narrator by far. He is funny and opinionated and loves Robinson Crusoe. I was sad when his narration ended. I was also sad that we didn’t get more of Sergeant Cuff, the character based on Inspector Whicher, the real life detective who is featured in the book The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. He was very vivid and rational – a nice contrast to the emotional young characters who dominate the novel. If you like sprawling Victorian sensation novels, this one should not be missed.

3 more days until Mary Stewart Reading Week – are you ready?

18 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’ve been wondering of I might find time to reread The Moonstone this autumn, and I think you might have pushed me towards trying. But first I have My Brother Michael lined up for Mary Stewart Reading Week.

    1. I read My Brother Michael earlier in the year and really liked it. She loves Greece and you can tell – it really shines in her writing.
      The Moonstone would be a perfect fall read. I have so many books to read this fall for work, but I would love to fit The Woman in White in too.

  2. I enjoyed The Moonstone very much, and I’ve been meaning to read more Wilkie Collins – and to re-read The Woman in White, which according to my reading journal I’ve read, but I have absolutely no memory of it.
    I think The Gabriel Hounds has jumped to the top of my Mary Stewart reading list.

    1. I don’t have a memory of The Woman in White, either! I know I read it and I know I liked it and I can remember exactly where I was when I read the majority of it (on my parents’ pink couch), but the details are lost. It is time I re-read it, I think.
      I haven’t read The Gabriel Hounds, but I loved Helen’s review earlier this year. Looking forward to your thoughts!

      1. I think it is because of the gap between me reading one and the other that has lead me to prefer the former. I read The Moonstone right at the beginning of University and I didn’t really know much about feminism or critical reading. The was around 8 years ago now, so reading The Woman in White I couldn’t help but see how much Wilkie Colins (and his contemporaries) saw women. The only powerful women is practically a man in disguise – it’s the only way the male protagonist could acceptably have a woman as a friend/sidekick.

        1. Interesting! I did like how the young women in The Moonstone, Rachel and the maid who kills herself (can’t remember her name), are feisty and outspoken. They are, however, both motivated by their love for Franklin. I must add The Woman in White to my fall reading list.

  3. I’m so pleased to hear you’ve been reading so much recently! I look forward to reading more of your mini-thoughts.

    For the Mary Stewart event I am planning to start reading Wildfire at Midnight this weekend. Hopefully won’t take me too long to read!

  4. I love The Moonstone! Gabriel Betteredge is such a wonderful narrator, isn’t he? Sorry to hear you didn’t like Songs of Willow Frost much. I would still like to try it though, as I enjoyed Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

    I’m looking forward to the Mary Stewart week. I’ve started reading Stormy Petrel and enjoying it so far, although it wasn’t one that I was originally planning to read!

    1. I love Gabriel Betteredge – I wish he would have narrated the whole novel. I think you should read Songs of Willow Frost if you liked Hotel. It has a lot of the same elements and isn’t a bad read. It is just…lacking something.

      Stormy Petrel is one of her books I’ve struggled with – I can’t wait to see what you thought.

    1. Me too, Sunday! I wish sometimes that I didn’t feel an obligation as a librarian to read lots of contemporary fiction so that I could concentrate on the beloved classics.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

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